2.15 Panopticon of Joy

Elevation, section and plan of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, drawn by Willey Reveley, 1791

False Security
In Discipline and Punish, philosopher Michel Foucault builds on philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s conceptualization of a panopticon as he elaborates upon the function of disciplinary mechanisms in the prison, while illustrating the function of discipline as an apparatus of power. The “panoptic” style of architecture may be used in other institutions with surveillance needs such as schools, factories or hospitals. The ever-visible inmate, Foucault suggests, is always “…the object of information, never a subject in communication.” As hinted at by the architecture, this panoptic design can be used for any “population” that needs to be kept under observation or control, such as prisoners, schoolchildren, medical patients or workers.

Panopticon of Joy Camera Set Up 1–7 Top View

With all the documentary and time-lapse work I have been developing, many people have mentioned they think I am using surveillance techniques to capture my subject matter. I don’t consider that my work uses surveillance as a tactic, but I can understand that misinterpretation. In Panopticon of Joy, I undertake a tongue-in-cheek experiment that makes me realize that no matter how many cameras I put on my daughter Joy, I have no power or control, just a false sense of security.

Panopticon of Joy, 2012, Video Stills

Panopticon of Joy uses seven different cameras to document Joy’s behavior and displays the footage in an interactive split screen application. Within the application the user is able to select the camera view options and manipulate the speed as well as forward and reverse the file. The user may feel like he has control over the videos, but soon realizes that controlling the cameras speed and direction of the video is fruitless.

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